Though the stereotypical image of the stay-at-home wife/ mom finds its roots way back when, the fact is that woman of all types — single, married, moms, and women that do not have children — have worked for an income for over 100 years. It hasn’t always been popular however, and what it looks like has certainly changed over time.
At the turn of the century female entrepreneurs were found mostly in the service, retail, and hospitality industries. They ran millineries, hotels, brothels, and taverns. In general, they ran them with their husbands. The women who ran companies on their own were those were did not have a bread-winning male in their lives.
The Changing of the Tide
As early at 1919 woman entrepreneurs began forming alliances such as the Women’s Professional Club. These types of organizations were meant to help balance the scales. Men had the inside scoop in the business world, and the women intended to break down the walls and partake.
Necessity Breeds Success
During the Great Depression there was an urgency that lead many women to get creative, thus creating successful businesses all of their own. Margaret Rudkin is just one example. She was forced to sell her once wealthy family’s 12 horses and 5 cars, leaving her only with the land they owned. She began reading publications put out by the government about how to make an income off the land, which eventually lead to a bread recipe that was the launching pad for Pepperidge Farms.
War Time and Home Based Businesses
When the men went off to war, the women had to take up the slack in the workplace, putting entrepreneurship on hold for many. However, along came the 50s, with women looking to stay home as they had done before, but still make a buck. Home based businesses became popular, and many of the oldest network marketing companies were started during these years. This allowed women to run their own businesses with a sort of turnkey approach.
Legislature to Even the Playing Field
In the 70s, as divorce rates surged, single mothers were looking for ways to raise their kids and support them financially at the same time. In 1973, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act helped break the cycle of discrimination against women in lending, and years later the Women’s Business Ownership Act opened up the entrepreneurial world even more for women by erasing the requirement that that husbands sign for loans with their wives, and also allowing women owned businesses to compete for lucrative government contracts.
The Digital Age
These days anyone can pretty much do anything, anytime, and anywhere thanks to the internet. Women are running businesses from their homes, libraries, and even coffee shops while they live their lives, raise their children, educate them, manage their home, care for aging parents, and any other number of things that must be done. Traditional offices are popular too. While there is still a gender gap, much progress has been made, and much more is certain to come.
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